by ADAM GRUENEWALD
The Central softball team won three games convincingly this past week, defeating Mayer Lutheran last Tuesday, 17-2, before taking two more over Class AAA opponents at a tournament in Monticello on Saturday, 14-5 over Wilmar and 14-0 over Sartell-Saint Stephen.
The Raiders are now 9-0 on the season including 4-0 in the Minnesota River Confference. They are also ranked third in Class AA according to the Minnesota Fastpitch Coaches Association.
On the season, the Raiders are outscoring their opponents 115-12 so far, after scoring 136 runs in 22 games last season.
Their closest win on the season thus far is a 2-0 victory over potential section opponent Le Sueur-Henderson and sophomore pitcher Carly Brandt, who they host on May 6.
Head coach Jon Lambrecht added he continues to be impressed with his squad’s display of power, as they hit nine homeruns over the fence on Saturday and continue to hit deep blasts for doubles and homeruns.
“That’s not normal in fastpitch softball,” said Lambrecht. “We’ve been spoiled here in the last handful of years. This sport is supposed to be small ball… this club is very unique. When you stand there at third like I do, it’s pretty amazing to see the ball jumping off their bats like that. These girls are very athletic and work hard.”
Central 17, Mayer Lutheran 2
The Raiders put the Crusaders away early last Tuesday, scoring 10 runs in the first inning en route to a 17-2 five-inning win.
Natalie Stockman was key to the quick start as she shut down Mayer Lutheran over three innings while recording seven strikeouts and also got it done at the plate.
After Kaylie Brazil reached on a walk and McKayla Lobitz followed with a single, Stockman crushed a homerun over the fence for a 3-0 lead.
Megan Miller and Megan Knickerbocker followed with walks and after a double play, Anna Willems, Ashley Luskey and Kayla Leonhardt then followed with singles. Then came the doubles as Brazil hit a two-run double, Lobitz hit another two-run double, Stockman got a RBI double and Miller followed with a double until a groundout ended the first inning.
After a scoreless second inning, the Raiders tacked on three runs in the third inning punctuated by a three-run homerun by Miller for a 13-0 lead.
With the game in hand, Central gave their reserves playing time.
With Abby Forner on the mound, the Crusaders scored a run in the fourth inning after a leadoff single by Josie Peters, but the Raiders tacked on four runs in the fourth inning for a 17-1 lead.
The Crusaders then got doubles by Rebecca Gaida and Sophie Flucas in the fifth inning for another run before Forner got a groundout for the victory.
Central 14, Wilmar 5
The Raiders opened the Monticello tournament with a win over Wilmar on Saturday.
Offensively, Central powered five homeruns including three by Miller, one by Stockman and one by Lobitz.
Miller finished the game 3-for-5 with six RBIs, while Lobitz went 3-for-5 with three runs scored and two stolen bases and Stockman went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and four RBIs.
Also, Brazil went 2-for-5 with two runs scored and a stolen base and Knickerbocker, Forner, Willems and Leonhardt all added hits.
Stockman earned the win on the mound, giving up two hits as three Raiders errors led to late runs for Wilmar with the Raiders already comfortably ahead.
“By then it was pretty much decided,” said head coach Jon Lambrecht. “We were just getting outs instead playing to stop the runs.”
Central 14, Sartell-Saint Stephen 0
Natalie Stockman sparked the Raiders with a stellar effort at the plate and on the mound.
Stockman pitched a no-hitter on the mound with two walks and eight strikeouts and also went 5-for-5 with five runs scored, eight RBIs and four homeruns to spark Central.
Stockman, who is hitting .649 on the season, is leading the metro area in wins and homeruns and leading the state in RBIs.
“She very well could be the best pure hitter in the state,” said Lambrecht. “Her batting skills for power and average are off the charts… just the way the ball comes off the bat is something else.”
Also, Lobitz went 2-for-5 with a double and two stolen bases.
“She’s continuing to hit the ball real well,” said Lambrecht. “As far as her on the field plays, she is maturing before our eyes.”
Miller added a hit and an RBI, Knickerbocker added two hits and two RBIs, Forner had two hits, Willems added a hit, and Leonhardt added a hit and a stolen base.
Central next were scheduled to travel to Belle Plaine on May 1. They then will host Le Sueur-Henderson on May 6 before traveling to Tri-City United on May 8 and hosting Sibley East for a doubleheader on May 9.
Contact Adam Gruenewald at email@example.com.